There’s a lot that could be said about this one, so I’ll try to be concise.
I see World Building as the process of balancing the wonder of discovery with the security of consistency.
From a preparation stand point, it’s invaluable to know your world.
Its economics, its history, its cultural aspects, its science or magic and its geography of course. From an execution standpoint, how much of that actually goes into a book ought to be limited to the scope of the story, with enough hints of what lies beyond the story to stimulate the reader’s curiosity.
Within that approach, a reader might feel wonder at a world's magic perhaps, but take comfort from the consistency of how the magic is applied by the author. A scrap of history might relate to and colour a particular character, but the author doesn’t dovetail into pages of unbroken exposition.
With City of Masks I’ve taken geographical influence from the city of Amalfi in Italy. My wife and I were lucky enough to be able to travel there a few years ago and it’s safe to say I was enchanted. In City of Masks, my main city, Anaskar, is perched on a coast and is also lashed by storms, just like Amalfi, but of course I’ve altered many aspects. Above is an example of the kind of waves Amalfi can face throughout winter.
I’ve also used the city of Anaskar as a starting point for history of my world, having characters uncover details about the city’s role in past wars, in settlement of the area and its link to the strange sea beast which threatens it. I’ve tried to do so in order to give the world depth, but in the sense that an iceberg has depth - what's seen above the water is hardly everything.
The city will have its secrets, and it’s my hope that readers of City of Masks will enjoy that just as much as the story itself!
A while back I saw the new (at the time) Studio Ghibli film From Up on Poppy Hill at the Reel Anime Festival in the wonderful Cinema Nova, Melbourne. I recently watched it again and enjoyed it just as much as the first time, so I wanted to mention it here.
Now, this isn’t a review exactly, so much as me mentioning again that I really liked it, and cobbling together a few links!
From Up on Poppy Hill is a coming of age film set in post war Japan (in the Port of Yokohama). The animation is top notch with the colouring beautiful as ever and as is fairly often the case with Ghibli releases, the film is an adaptation of an existing manga. It’s probably quite faithful to the source, but I can’t tell – though if it’s of the quality that Howl’s Moving Castle was, then it’s probably a great adaptation.
In any event, you won’t need to know the original to enjoy this if you like the genre. It features an almost typical romantic plot and a good deal of humour, along with what is perhaps its strongest feature: a keen sense of nostalgia (which is aesthetic for me of course).
From Up on Poppy Hill is a coming of age film set in post war Japan (in the Port of Yokohama). The animation is top notch with the colouring beautiful as ever and as is fairly often the case with Ghibli releases, the film is an adaptation of an existing manga. It’s probably quite faithful to the source, but I can’t tell – though if it’s of the quality that Howl’s Moving Castle was, then it’s probably a great adaptation. In any event, you won’t need to know the original to enjoy this if you like the genre. It features an almost typical romantic plot and a good deal of humour, along with what is perhaps its strongest feature: a keen sense of nostalgia (which is aesthetic for me of course).
Being a period piece, it has a focus on the cultural details and day to day living that reveals the wonderful attention to detail that I love about Ghibli films. Part of this is the use of pop songs from the time, one from 1963, which I hadn’t realised was also a number single in the US at the time – is used to great effect in the movie. By Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, it’s known as ‘Sukiyaki’ and you can read about it here and hear it here. (Sakamoto has a tiny cameo in the film too).
Not my favourite Studio Ghibli film, but still wonderful.
I’ve been working on revisions for City of Masks and one of the main points of feedback from my editor was the need for extra foreshadowing on a few story aspects.
And as they say ‘writing is rewriting’ I’m pretty excited – because the story’s getting stronger each day and there’s a great joy from the narrative technique of foreshadowing. I’ve heard it described as ‘laying breadcrumbs for the reader’, and it's purpose is of course, to prepare the readers with knowledge they’ll need to best enjoy plot or character points in the latter parts of the book.
But foreshadowing can be a fine line between revealing too much too soon or too little too late.
I believe that many of the stories I’ve enjoyed most over the years, were the ones that gave the reader enough information up front to build curiosity about questions of how and why as much or more than, questions of who, what or whether.
So, for instance, a murder mystery will still work very well if the reader knows who the killer is early on in the story.
What the reader wants to know most, is how the killer got away with it or not whether they will be caught but how they will be caught and why they did it.
And with that in mind, it's back to foreshadowing!
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Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
Imperial Towers (Never Book 5) - draft 1
Moss Dragon - draft 1
Reed Lavender (working title) - draft 1
Unnamed Spec Fic - draft 1
Whisper of Leaves (sequel) - Outline